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Iran says airline passengers can sue US after near collision with American jets

The judiciary say passengers can take action in Iranian courts or through the International Civil Aviation Organisation
The US military said its jets were at a safe distance from the Iranian airliner in the 23 July incident over Syria (AFP)

Iran's judiciary said on Saturday that passengers aboard an Iranian airliner that had a near miss with two US fighter jets this week can sue the US military for damages in Iranian courts.

The US military had said its F-15 fighters were at a safe distance as they conducted a visual inspection of the airliner as it passed near the Tanf garrison in Syria, home to US forces. 

Iranian media said on Friday that several passengers on the Mahan Air flight from Tehran to Beirut were injured on Thursday after the pilot rapidly changed altitude to avoid collision, before safely landing in Beirut. 

Laya Joneydi, vice president for legal affairs, said the actions were a "harassment of a passenger plane" and a "clear violation of aviation security". 

US fighter jets in near miss with Iranian plane in Syrian airspace
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On Saturday, Ali Bagheri-Kani, head of the judiciary's human rights office, said the alleged manoeuvre could be prosecutable in Iranian courts, in comments quoted by the semi-official ILNA news agency on Saturday.

"All passengers on Mahan Air Flight 1152, Iranians and non-Iranian, can sue the terrorist US military - commanders, perpetrators, supervisors and deputies - in Iranian courts for moral and physical damages," he said.

Bagheri-Kani added that complainants could also take an international legal route through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the UN agency that oversees international civil aviation agreements.

Iranian courts follow laws that deal with human rights violations and "adventurist and terrorist acts of the United States in the region", he said.

It was not clear if any passenger would sue the US military.

Iran on Friday protested to the United Nations of a "flagrant violation" of international law and lodged a complaint with the ICAO.

The incident was the latest in a series that have increased tensions between Tehran and Washington since President Donald Trump in 2018 withdrew the United States from Iran's nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions that have battered Iran's economy.

Footage of the inside of the airliner broadcast by Iranian state TV on Friday showed a passenger lying immobile on the floor and another with a wounded nose and forehead.